As we come to the end of a year and start another, it is time to reflect on the past year - another successful year for the Green Party in Oxfordshire.
We now have 24 Green Party councillors, representing 27 areas, administering 3 councils and have selected 7 candidates for the next General Election.
Greens grow in the Conservative collapse
On 4 May 2023 voters elected 8 new Green Party councillors in Oxfordshire districts, so that we now have councillors representing 27 district wards and county divisions, plus many town and parish councillors.
There are now no Conservative councillors in the Vale of White Horse. Our 4 Green councillors (up from 1) make up the whole of the opposition to a Liberal Democrat controlled council.
In 2019 Green councillors joined the new administration of South Oxfordshire district, replacing a Conservative majoirity. This year all but one Conservative lost their seats. Although the Liberal Democrats now have a majority on their own, the joint Green/Lib. Dem. administration continues.
Last year the Conservatives lost West Oxfordshire, which is being run by Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens. We now have three Green councillors.
But Cherwell council continues to be run by the Conservatives, after Labour councillors refused to join a group containing two Greens. And Labour withdrew from the county council Fair Deal Alliance after refusing to take responsibility for the failings in special needs education, leaving the Greens and Liberal Democrats to continue running the county council.
Our new Green councillors are:
James Barlow (Wallingford)
Ali Gordon-Creed (Chinnor)
James Norman (Woodcote & Rotherfield)
Katherine Foxhall (Watchfield & Shrivenham)
Sarah James (Hendreds)
Viral Patel (Watchfield & Shrivenham)
Tom Beckett (Bicester East)
Sandra Simpson (Witney North)
Here is a map of all the areas where people are represented by Green Party councillors.
With elected Green councillors we can make more of a difference.
Making an impact
Our Green councillors by 2021 had a long list of achievements. They have continued to build on them. Our councillors and campaigners will be working on the closely related cost of living and climate crises: from the county council getting funding for retrofitting, to community information days organised by parish councils. To have an impact, they need our support. Could you help a councillor by reading and summarising the documents for the next meeting, so they don't have to do it all on their own?
Oxfordshire County Council
Since 2021 the Oxfordshire County Council Fair Deal Alliance has transformed the policies of the county council, to tackle the climate emergency, inequalities, health and well-being, active travel, social and child care. Green councillor Pete Sudbury is the Cabinet Member for Climate Change Delivery & Environment. The county council how has a serious net zero strategy and found funding for retrofit, electric vehicle charging and many other steps to net zero.
The county council 2022-25 strategic plan put action to address the climate emergency at the heart of our work. The full list of priorities is:
- Put action to address the climate emergency at the heart of our work.
- Tackle inequalities in Oxfordshire.
- Prioritise the health and wellbeing of residents.
- Support carers and the social care system.
- Invest in an inclusive, integrated and sustainable transport network.
- Preserve and improve access to nature and green spaces.
- Create opportunities for children and young people to reach their full potential.
- Play our part in a vibrant and participatory local democracy.
- Work with local businesses and partners for environmental, economic andsocial benefit.
Towards those ends, the county council adopted in 2023 a Local Transport and Connectivity Plan with targets including:
- reduce 1 in 4 car trips by 2030
- deliver a net-zero transport network by 2040
- have zero, or as close as possible, road fatalities or life-changing injuries
Under this the county council has continued to roll out 20 mph zones when requested by parish councils, designed bus gates to prioritise bus travel in Oxford (postponed until after the Botley Road bridge work has finished), continued to support some rural bus routes, and gained funding for active travel.
The 2023/4 budget also included funding for:
- community transport initiatives in both rural and urban areas
- extension of the current (very well used) discount ticket at park and rides
- expanding the supported transport team to work with young people and their families to develop active travel options for getting to school, and expanding School Streets to make it safer to do so
- investment into transport hubs including e-bike hire, car club promotion, andimprovements to travel information
- flood resilience across Oxfordshire including practical projects with parish councils and proactive ditch clearance in areas prone to flooding
- £1m for local priority improvements to highways, cycle paths and pavements.
- funding for SEND educational and health care plan (ECHP) assessments
- investment in community hubs to support children and families.
- A Council Tax Support Scheme to help those most in need in Oxfordshire – ensuring that they do not have pay the full increase in council tax this year.
However, the council was heavily criticised for poor support to families with children with special educational needs and disabilities. The extra money was not enough to change the slow service, so the council promised to fix the problem. Liz Brighouse (Lab.) did not want to resign as cabinet member for children and schools. Instead Labour withdrew from the Fair Deal Alliance.
Green Party councillors have brought motions to the county council that were approved, including:
- opposing the reopening of the Campsfield House immigration detention centre,
- pressing the Government to give more support on the cost of living crisis, including those living off grid.
Cherwell District Council
We now have 3 Green councillors, Ian Middleton, Fiona Mawson and, elected this year, Tom Beckett. There were enough Green, Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors to take over from the Conservatives this year, as the Conservatives lost their majority. But Labour refused to join an administration with a Green cabinet member. Ian has written up what happened in an article in Bright Green. So the Conservatives stay in power, with Greens and Lib. Dems. as the official opposition.
Ian brought motions to CDC to:
- oppose reopening of Campsfield House (defeated),
- ask the Government for more support for refugees, especially Afghans and Ukrainians (wrecked by a Conservative amendment),
- support the Climate and Ecology bill (accepted),
- increase the ratio of affordable homes in new developments from 30 to 50% (accepted but delayed)
He also secured funding for a controlled crossing of the A44 at Begbroke, and continues to campaign on the many proposals to cover the Green belt between Oxford and Kidlington.
Oxford City Council
The Green Group of 6 City councillors, led by Chris Jarvis, has been very active within the City Council and individuals have served on various sub-committees. Chris and Lucy have been on the influential Scrutiny Committee and this year Lucy has been appointed as Chair.
The list of the Group’s achievements and work within the Council include:
- Achieving a ban on single use plastics by street traders
- Establishing a Climate and Environment Standing Scrutiny Panel for Council
- Agreement to trade union representation on Oxford’s Economic Strategysteering board
- Agreement to press Thames Water on their performance, and to call for publicownership of water services
- Agreement to monitor the LGBT pay gap in the Council
- Provision of free period products in public toilets in the city
- Expanding the Smoke Control Area to cover the whole of the city.
- A motion to support the establishment of a Climate Emergency Centre in Oxford.
Campaigns and other areas of work in the community by councillors have included: a CPZ in Donnington, cycling and traffic measures (and even home monitoring of traffic), the Botley Road closure, Oxford’s Flood Alleviation Scheme, support for the local trade union movement. Councillors also worked with others to respond to the consultations on the City’s Local Plan and the Housing, Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy.
In the Blackbird Leys Parish Council, David Newman organised a cost of living advice event bringing 14 support organisations in to the community centre and opposed the biodiversity loss and impact on wildlife (including badgers) that will come from a big Peabody/City Council regeneration and housing project.
South Oxfordshire District Council
Since 2019 the Green Group on South Oxfordshire District Council has been in a joint administration with the Liberal Democrats. This continued after the 2023 election, even though the Liberal Democrats had a majority on their own, having reduced the Conservatives from 9 to one councillor.
Cllr Robin Bennett has led the group, and is Deputy Leader of the Council. The administration’s new Corporate Plan prioritises nature restoration, the Climate
Emergency, improving economic and community wellbeing and rebuilding financial viability, including bringing services back in-house, and working on a joint Local Plan with Vale of White Horse.
As Chair of the Climate and Ecological Emergencies Advisory Committee (CEEAC) Sam Casey-Rerhaye has played a leading role in developing the Council’s Climate Action Plan which includes a new tree planting policy, installing EV charging points in towns and implementing flood alleviation schemes.
Jo Robb, SODC Thames Champion, has spearheaded campaigns to raise awareness and take action on sewage pollution in the Thames and other local waterways. She also led Wallingford’s application for Bathing Water Status.
Andrea Powell, as Cabinet member for corporate services, policy and programmes is overseeing the development of a new civic building in the centre of Didcot.
Peter Dragonetti helped SODC locate uncollected business rates, raising recovering £2.6m for public services, including £500k for the SODC budget with £200k per year in future years.
With Robin Bennett as Cabinet Member for economic development and regeneration, SODC are planning a £5 million investment to invest in its own low-carbon council housing, and have agreed funding for 12 zero-carbon units on a brownfield site in Wheatley, to be delivered by SOHA.
In October 2022 the Green Group passed a motion setting out the council’s opposition to the Conservatives’ planned low-tax deregulated ‘investment zones’, again taking a lead role pushing the agenda as with the Ox-Cam Expressway, Thames pollution, and other vital issues.
Green councillors have been campaigning on:
- Greens call for review of major Didcot roads scheme ahead of council decision today (Oxford Mail, 14 March 2022)
- Berinsfield and Dalton Barracks garden villages get £100k grant (Oxford Mail, 27 June 2022)
- Water firm ‘using River Thames like open sewer’ (Henley Standard, 15 August 2022)
- Councillors call for action against speeding on main roads (Oxford Mail, 25th October 2022)
- Refusal of bathing water status in Wallingford 'baffling' (Oxford Mail, 15 March 2023)
- Greens Pledge 200 acre park in Didcot if re-elected (Herald Series, 28 Macrh 2023)
Vale of White Horse District Council
In Vale, Cheryl Briggs has sat on Licensing and Planning Committees. As a Town Councillor she was mayor of Abingdon in 2021-2 and has been closely involved with efforts to save Abingdon’s cinema. Following the May 2023 elections, Cheryl is now the Green Group leader on Vale District Council, having been joined by Kat Foxhall, Sarah James and Viral Patel after the May elections.
They pushed through amendments to the Liberal Democrat motion on sewage. South Oxon and Vale councils have both approved money to buy houses to move refugees out of hotels.
They have been campaigning against Thames Water's latest attempt to build an enormous reservoir SW of Abingdon, as reported in The Guardian. Kat Foxhall said, "There is a lot of big infrastructure coming into Oxfordshire and there are strategic reasons why that is. But what Thames Water have yet to do – and they have had 20-odd years – is make a convincing case based on evidence."
West Oxfordshire District Council
Our now 3 Green councillors have made an impact. Andrew Prosser is Executive Member for Climate Change, Rosie Pearson is the Green group leader and now Sandra Simpson is on Witney Town Council as well as the district council. Highpoints include:
- Overturning previous resistance to get Council commitment to back the CEE bill.
- Substainably reducing car park expansion at Country Park, saving wild orchids and flower meadow area.
- Early planning, set-up and chairing of Cost of Living Commitee. Channelling over £150K of additional Council support to local food bank and support roles. Achieving the highest takeup of sustainable warmth interventions in the region, and providing funding to over 30 low income households to upgrade their homes through the installation of a range of energy saving improvements.
- Getting the go ahead for Leisure Centre decarbonisation project despite resistance on energy cost projections. This was achieved with the support of the Greens in Power Group who provided advice on overcoming challenges and hurdles highlighted in initial Consultants report.
- Convincing colleagues and planners to include new call-out for potential nature recovery, carbon sequestration and flood mitigation, community food and renewable energy land areas in Local Plan process (on a par with call-out for housing and economic development areas). Securing funding for new full-time Biodiversity and Land Management post to support this and wider community engagement with parishes and towns, bringing awareness of pesticide-free verge management to district and town.
- Roll out of EV charging points, including to community hubs.
- Unanimously passed motions on holding a youth climate assembly in the Council chamber in 2024; and food and market garden policies for the local plan.
- Successful stalls engaging with residents about community ownership of water companies, and on community growing spaces.
They are working on updating the climate strategy, helping people develop neighbourhood plans, nutrient neutrality and sewage, funding of local organisations.
But it is not only councillors who have made an impact. Our members have participated in meetings, consultations and demonstrations to promote change in Oxfordshire.
The 2023 Green Fair
At the end of November we came together to celebrate local achievements at the Oxfgrd Green Fair. It was a great success, with as many stalls as before the pandemic and hundreds of visitors on the day. As well as providing a great day out for visitors it raised funds so we could continue campaigning in 2024. Here are images from this year's Green Fair.
Caroline Lucas opened the Green Fair. There were stalls from the Green Party,
from local NGOs such as Orinoco and Low Carbon hubs,
and places to get your Christmas presents.
Our Green Father Christmas went round the stalls talking to stall holders and answering questions from children.
Throughout the day, there was food and music.
All in all it was a succesful Oxford Green Fair. A great conclusion to a great year.
Looking forward to 2024
This will be a big year. Not only are there local elections in May but sometime during the year there will be a General Election. In the next election Oxfordshire voters will elect 7 MPs. We got an extra constituency from the boundary review. To find your new constituency, put your postcode into mapit.mysoiciety.org and look up your Future UK Parliament constituency.
Green Party members in each constituency have voted to select our candidates.
The General Election could be in May, but current betting is on an October election. Right now you can help us get ready for the General Election by making a regular monthly donation to the Oxfordshire Green Party. Note that donations to the national party go to national campaigning.
Meanwhile there are local elections to Oxford, Cherwell and West Oxfordshire councils. We need to defend councillors in Oxford, Kidlington and Witney and get more elected in each council. Could we double the number of Green councillors?
So it is a case of all hands on deck. Could you make a New Year's resolution to support the Green Party campaigns in Oxfordshire? Could you spare one or two hours a week as a volunteer? We rely on the efforts of volunteers, be they doing small things like delivering 200 leaflets or big things like managing an election campaign. We campaign all year round, not just in the last few weeks before polling day. Residents prefer to vote for people they have heard from before the election. And they stop voting for councillors who ignore them between elections. We print and deliver ward newsletters every two to three months. Then when we got closer to polling day, our campaigning speeds up, delivering one leaflet a week, handing out posters, and knocking on doors to talk to voters, sometimes called canvassing. Here are a couple of volunteers who went canvassing in Bicester for Tom Beckett, talking about their experiences.
Apart from campaigning in the ward, there are other volunteers working remotely - on graphic design, writing, data entry and analysis, web pages, social media, telephoning and fundraising or standing as a non-target candidate. There are many skills we can use in election campaigning, and others you can learn from us.
If you are interested, you can volunteer on our web site.
Or could you help financially? It costs over £1,000 per ward to run a local election campaign (mainly the cost of printing leaflets). We managed several successful crowd funders in 2022. But the money comes late in the campaign. We need people to sign up to donate a little every month so we can campaign all year round.
Please donate on our web site.